Reducing heart disease risk factors

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Heart Foundation

According to the Department of Health cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia, and recent data from the Heart Foundation reveals that three-quarters of the population are at risk of developing CVD.

These risk factors can include high blood pressure, depression, smoking, high cholesterol levels, lack of vegetables in your diet, family history of heart disease, lack of exercise, diabetes and being overweight.

Concerning, according to the Heart Foundation, 67% of Australians are overweight, 83% do not meet physical activity guidelines and 41% are living with high cholesterol.

These are all key risk factors and the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the future.

So, how can people reduce their risks of CVD?

Dr Andrew Thompson, a registered doctor at InstantScripts provides his tips below:

  1. Have a heart health check. “If you’re aged over 45, or over 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is important to have a heart health check with your doctor. To check your heart health doctors will assess your disease risk factors to determine if you’re at low, moderate, or high risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. Doctors may recommend you take action to improve your heart health, which could include taking prescribed medication, changing aspects of your lifestyle, or getting a referral to see another health professional to manage or treat specific risk factors.”
  2. Take prescribed heart medication. “Medicines your doctor may prescribe to protect your heart — if you need them — include blood pressure-lowering medicines (antihypertensives), cholesterol-lowering medicines and medicines to help control blood sugar (treat diabetes). These medicines will help you manage and reduce the impact of certain risk factors on your heart and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.”
  3. Eat a targeted diet. “Eating a specific heart-healthy diet can have great medicating and preventative effects on your health. I recommend including as many vegetables, fruits, and wholegrain cereals, as well as legumes, such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, as you can in your diet. Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as pizza, cake, biscuits, pastries and deep-fried foods. You would also be wise to introduce foods into your diet that contain healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and small servings of animal-based products, such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, poultry, and lean meat. The Heart Foundation is also a great resource for healthy recipes to improve heart health.”
  4. Get moving. “Health authorities around the world recommend at least 30 minutes of walking every day to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and improve the management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain and diabetes. If you don’t feel you have 30 minutes to spare, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recommends just 15 extra minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week could reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other conditions by around 13%. It is important to remember that the more physical activity you engage in, the better. You don’t have to do 30 minutes of exercise at one time and can separate it into shorter periods if that is more manageable for you. Any exercise can help improve your heart health, and overall health, immensely.”